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Villa Gustavo

November 6, 2022

At the border between the towns of Meran and Algund in the South Tirol, there is a house located at 66 Via Goethe Strasse. It was built between 1860 and 1880. It stands adjacent to an AGIP gas station and in front of the Tappeiner Hospital of Meran. It looks like many of the old period houses which occupy Meran and suggests better times. Indeed, years ago, those better times surrounded our family there in that house, the Villa Gustavo.

The property was once a well to do villa on the then outskirts of Meran. The many acres that now occupy the hospital were in fact a large vineyard in the years preceding World War I. My grandmother Anna Rizzi lived there for some years after the death of her husband in 1913. The house, or villa, was the property of Anna Rizzi (Flor) and her brother Valentino Flor between the years of 1913 and 1921 and was once a lively center for entertaining the large family. The house was originally purchased along with two others on Via Monastero near the center of town after Anna had returned from the United States with her husband in 1912. There in the far away coal mines of Wyoming, her husband Eugenio had mad a considerable amount of money.

My father, also Eugene Rizzi remembered having his clothes changed there as a baby by his older sister Rosalia on top of a slate or marble table. Rosalia died in 1913, shortly after her father and coincidentally in the same house in nearby Tret in the Non Valley. After years of trying to locate this table or perhaps a person with a distant memory of it, the effort was finally given up and the secret grudgingly given back to time.

When the first World War came to this part of what was then Austria, Anna’s brother Valentino suggested that Anna put all of her money into German war bonds. Because Valentino was a powerful attorney reporting directly to the Austrian government, Anna willingly put all of her considerable money into the German war bonds. After the war, obviously she lost all of her money. After a few years of struggling in Meran, Anna left her native Austria for good in 1921 as the South Tirol had become a part of Italy. She never returned and never looked back. The flush years in Meran were soon exchanged for tough times in the United States as her expatriation was soon followed by the Great Depression.

After 1918, Meran and all of the South Tirol became part of Italy. Overnight, the official language was changed from German to Italian and in places like Meran, an identity crisis and resentment of Italy grew.  On the left side of the Villa Gustavo there remains a portion of what Valentino Flor had painted on the outside wall after the fall of Austria to Italy in World War I. It has been covered many times by many coats of paint, but the blunt block letters remain, oblivious to time. They read:

L’Italia non farà piu una politica di rinuncia e di viltà.

Italy won’t do (any) more politics of renouncement and cowardice.

These simple words illustrate some of the complex feelings that left with the family as most exited their new country, Italy. Better had it been written, “Dieses Land und Leute sind immer unter Sudtirol und Gott!”

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  1. A fascinating history, Allen.

    Liked by 1 person

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